Imagine dropping your daughter off for her first year of college.
Thanks to her acceptance into a Christian school, you’re as comfortable as you could be launching this young girl — no, young woman — into the “real world.” You’ve helped arrange what few belongings she brought in her assigned dorm room, and almost lost it when you noticed her teddy bear made the cut.
Now, after several attempts at delaying the inevitable, you allow yourself one last tour of her new digs. It doesn’t take nearly as long as you hoped, since the room is roughly the size of a parking space. All that’s left is holding back tears as you hug her goodbye… then counting the days until Christmas break.
Then you learn that her roommate is a male.
That jolt is the unfortunate reality many could be facing this year, due to a Biden administration directive that would force private Christian colleges to open up sex-specific dorms, bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and more to members of the opposite sex.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are representing Missouri’s College of the Ozarks in a lawsuit challenging a Biden administration Department of Housing and Urban Development rule that forces faith-based institutions to abandon their beliefs.
The new directive revolves around the Fair Housing Act. Part of the historic Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s and 70s, the FHA was designed to prevent landlords from denying housing opportunities to people based on their inherent characteristics, such as race or sex.
But an executive order signed by President Biden earlier this year requires sexual orientation and gender identity to be included as new, broader prohibitions on sex discrimination. That means colleges and universities — including those grounded in Christian convictions and biblical beliefs — can be forced to open shared residential spaces (locker rooms, showers, bathrooms, dorm rooms) to members of the opposite sex.
And for the moment, there’s no way out for the schools that object.
President Biden could have exempted private Christian schools like College of the Ozarks from the order, but he didn’t. This means Christian college administrators confronted with the directive would find themselves with three options:
One, they can choose to abandon their religious beliefs and comply.
Two, they can refuse to do what the Biden administration is telling them to do — though that would likely result in massive fines in the six-figure range, not to mention punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and possibly even a prison sentence.
Or three, they can stop offering housing to their students. Of course, no more dorms mean no students living on campus… in other words, religious schools that are established as residential communities would be effectively banned, just because they believe men can’t become women.
And under the new directive, all of those penalties could still apply even if the college turned down every cent of federal money.
College of the Ozarks’ complaint fell on deaf ears in a district court in Missouri. The court refused to act and instead dismissed the entire case, suggesting that the school wait until it’s in the government’s legal crosshairs before getting its day in court.
“Come back later, after you’re in really big trouble,” was the basic message.
But the harm is already here. In fact, even now, the Biden administration is making changes and enforcing mandates.
The college has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, which has already granted a request to expedite the argument. The case will be heard in mid-November, and many other private religious schools are watching to see what happens.
Private, faith-based colleges have the constitutionally protected freedom to provide separate male and female dorms, showers, and locker rooms. And until recently, that commonsense policy has been widely accepted and respected.
For the sake of students all over the country — and not just those at private Christian schools — here’s hoping the 8th Circuit will step in to stop this government overreach of HUD and protect the religious liberties of College of the Ozarks.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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